Is Icom a Johnny come lately for introducing the MXA-5000 AIS receiver just as Class B transceivers finally hit the market? I don't think so. Not every skipper is as keen to be seen via AIS as I am, and if said skipper does want to monitor Class A and B AIS targets, ICOM's offering looks easy to install and promises a good performance/cost ratio. For instance, the MXA-5000 has a built in antenna splitter, purportedly engineered for exceptionally low signal loss, plus it has a NMEA 0183 input so you can mix GPS info into its 0183 output. This $499 unit is also a true dual-channel receiver, meaning that it listens to both AIS channels simultaneously. There are several less expensive one-channel-at-a-time receivers out there, and they've worked okay in a Class A world where moving ships transmit data every few seconds. But when Class B proliferates, its dynamic data rate of every 30 seconds per channel will likely make one-channel-at-a-time receivers obsolete. By the way, Class B (and A) transponders are also true dual-channel receivers. I'll be testing Icom's receiver, which may be exceptionally sensitive, along all the other AIS related devices mentioned this month. Visit the blog for details.
This article originally appeared in the January 2009 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.